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Blog 3: Cognitive Task Analysis

I did not know what Cognitive Task Analysis (CTA) was so I am devoting this blog to teaching us all a little bit about it!

CTA is used to understand tasks that carry a cognitive load - things that require executive functions along with memory and attention. The task analysis is best used for breaking down tasks into chewable bits and learning how best to train users.

Winston Seck ( lists the main steps of conducting a cognitive task analysis on an expert of some sort of activity- best leave it to the experts to break this part down.

"1. Background preparation – getting familiar with the domain and population of interest. Reading through any existing manuals, doctrine, and holding informal discussions are common ways to start getting up to speed on the problem area.

2. Elicitation of knowledge – using one or more specific techniques to draw out the tacit knowledge and thought processes of experts. More on this below.

3. Analysis of qualitative data – sifting through the mass of data, usually in the form of transcripts of the experts’ verbal reports. Identifying decisions, cues, goals, strategies, concepts, and other elements of thought.

4. Knowledge representation – assembling those thought elements into a readily digestible format for understanding and communication. Usually, this means creating tables, charts, or diagrams that represent the experts’ knowledge.

5. Design & develop applications – creating instruction, decision aids, or other applications using the newly constructed model of the experts’ knowledge as a starting point for ideation and design."

As you can see, CTA is a great tool for eliciting knowledge that may be trapped in experts in a given field. There is a broad application of CTA since it hits on the general topic of information transfer - it can be beneficial for business, design, the military, really any field you can think of most likely valuable knowledge waiting to be divulged from experts.

To my readers: Have you ever conducted a CTA? How did it go? What are some topics/research questions that should be explored?

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I had previously learned about cognitive task analysis in a human factors class, but this blog was a great refresher on CTAs. In my class, I performed a CTA on swinging a baseball bat (right handed). Along with the CTA, we performed a hierarchal task analysis. I think the most interesting part of this experience was looking at the difference between CTA and HTA. The CTA required more knowledge in cognitive science, while the HTA required much more knowledge on the topic that we were analyzing.

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